The Future of Azerbaijan as an Energy and Cultural Crossroads
On November 19th, 2013 Indiana University was proud to host Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States, Elin Suleymanov. Over 100 people attended the Ambassador’s talk, “The Future of Azerbaijan as an Energy and Cultural Crossroads”. A recurring theme was the unique position of Azerbaijan as the “crossroad of the East and the West”. Azerbaijan is bordered by Iran and Russia, two major presences that have influenced what Azerbaijan has become. The Turkic, Slavic, and Persian worlds intersect in Azerbaijan, and the country can also be considered as the border between Christianity and Islam, between Europe and the Middle East, and between Asia and Europe. The ambassador characterizes Azerbaijan as a Southeastern European nation that is proud of its close connections to Central Asia. As a relatively small country, the only way Azerbaijan can exist and succeed is by being an inclusive nation. Investing the success of the surrounding region is an investment in the country itself, and this is why Azerbaijan is the largest investor and tax payer in its neighbor Georgia.
Azerbaijan is also well-known for its investment and emphasis in natural resource extraction, particularly oil and gas. Large international investments in the early 1990s were unusual in the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union, but Azerbaijan was a leader using profit-sharing agreements as a security buffer for investors. Pipelines through Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia have led to important capacity-building in all three countries, and in recent years Azerbaijan’s natural gas resources has played an important role in the energy security of the European Union. As of October of this year, Azerbaijan is the President of the UN Security Council and has worked to establish better relations with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to help resolve conflict in the Middle East. The unique geographical positioning and rich natural resources of Azerbaijan allow it to be an important contributor to security and stability in the region, and it takes this responsibility very seriously as it plans for the future.
Ambassador Suleymanov’s talk was sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, and the Department of Central Eurasian Studies.